As part of my MBA work I get to pick the brains of leaders in various fields, and I once asked an executive from Mercedes Benz what helped him manage strategy and change in his corporation so well. He responded, “If you want to understand long term strategy, play the game Settlers of Catan. If you want to understand change, read the book ‘Our Iceberg is Melting’ by John Kotter”. I bought both, and I am a believer. (links for US and UK are at end of post).
Both use children’s concepts (gameplay for Catan, and fables for Iceberg), but behind them are incredibly complex mechanisms. Settlers of Catan force you to look not ahead, but beyond, to see past the ‘next big thing’ or ‘next crisis’, a sort of meta-strategy concept. And ‘Our Iceberg is Melting’ perfectly illustrates the many issues that can arise from either seeing (or not seeing) potential problems.
I told you that to tell you this…
I like social media. I used to make nice money working on it for other people. But I’m looking down the road, and I’m seeing a problem, and the problem is this:
Where we think we’re going with engagement, isn’t where social media is going.
When social media first started, it was all about casting your net as widely as possible and ‘catching’ as many people as you could. How many of us scrolled through maiden names on facebook looking for old high school classmates who, let’s face it, we had no actual intention or desire to want to keep in touch with? How many of us clicked tens or hundreds of ‘likes’ on subjects because we could? Sure, I like the Taco Bell dog! Of course I remember the 90′s, I’ll like that! Why not, I’ll click that I like it when people on America’s Funniest Home Videos get hit in the crotch!
But as we matured, we began wanting quality over quantity. No, I didn’t care what someone I went to school with 15 years ago was doing this weekend. No, I didn’t care about the Yo Quiero Taco Bell ringtone that stupid dog was hawking. Now that I think about it, it’s not actually that funny to watch someone’s genitalia get smacked with a baseball. So we began to pare down, and become selective with our interaction with content.
Now we find ourselves increasingly isolated within social media bubbles. I might see the same meme 5 times a night on my wall, or in my twitter timeline, not because of the quantity of users, but because ideologically I’ve winnowed my worldview down so narrowly that it’s become little more than an echo chamber. The point of social media was to hear and see new things, but as we’ve seen and heard it all, there is little point to the conduit now (facebook, twitter, etc).
This is what regular folk experience through social media – a sort of lifecycle of engagement, if you will. But what about businesses? Well, if they are small/local, they will tend to have limited engagement anyway, so that’s fine. And if they’re multi-national, they are generally created for more publicity (eyes on page) than back and forth communication with users, so they are fine. So, who should worry?
Bloggers of all types should be worrying big time about this shift of consumer needs. This was perfectly illustrated yesterday with the brilliant Youtube blogger Veritasium and his Facebook Fraud video, shown below. I recommend getting a pad of paper and pen for this one, you are going to want to take notes.
And no, what you wrote down should NOT have been ‘buy facebook likes and twitter followers’. First off, that crap can get you booted off social media networks so fast it will make your head spin. What you should have written down was: “How do I engage with my readers when the deck is stacked against me?”. That is the question ALL bloggers are going to need to ask themselves, and quickly. I have some ideas, but even I’m not sure how it’s all going to go down. What I do know is, engagement needs to shift ahead of facebook and twitter, forcing them to conform to us, not the other way around as is currently happening.
Does this mean leaving fb and twitter? Maybe. Maybe it means Google hangouts. Maybe it means something else, I’m not sure. What I do know is, change is coming externally on the blogging community, when it should be internally. Our iceberg is melting, and we haven’t realized it yet.
(For US based folks)
(For UK folk)
ETA: Holy crap just watched Veritasium’s first facebook vid and was screaming at the screen I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!, more brilliance as to why bloggers are screwed: